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I have a punishing workout regimen. Every day I do 3 minutes on a treadmill, then I lie down, drink a glass of vodka and smoke a cigarette. (Anthony Hopkins)
Have you ever thought carefully about why you go to the gym? Maybe you like the way you look leaning against a treadmill? Maybe your goal is to be able to burst the buttons off your shirt just by flexing your pecs? Or maybe you just want to be able to open that jar of peanut-butter without having an aneurism or collapsing into a pile of sobbing human-refuse? Whatever the reason, we’re not here to judge, but we would like to point out that the time you invest into even a modest workout regime is actually quite substantial. Say you’ve been working out twice a week for the past decade, and a round-trip to the gym takes about two hours. This means that you’ve already spent almost three months at the gym, non-stop, 24 hours a day! For most people, the results might not justify this amount of time, and hence any method to cut down on it and use it more efficiently would be more than welcome.
The concept of High Intensity Training (HIT) is ideal for those wishing to maximize results while minimizing time spent at the gym.With HIT, you only need to spend 30-40 minutes at the gym each week. Basically, it rests on the following premises:
- Whereas most people do several sets of the same exercise, with HIT you only do one set of such intensity that you’re completely spent. Using a single set of 5-8 reps with as much weight as possible has been shown to be one of the best predictors for muscle growth and strength.
- Since you push yourself to the brink with every individual exercise, it logically follows that you will be pretty wiped by the end of the workout. So much so in fact, that it will take you at least three days to recover. This period is critical for muscle growth, so you actually only should work out only once or twice a week.
- Lots of modern, fancy gym-equipment aims at isolating muscles so you can better direct your work-out. This is actually something professional bodybuilders use to their advantage, since they want to meticulously control the exact appearance of their bodies. If you think about it though, this is not a natural way of working out. Both today and in the stone-age, whenever people exert themselves in everyday situations, they rarely use just one muscle. It’s hard to imagine there’s ever been a situation where one more bicep-curl made the difference between life and death (except of course that time when you were hanging from a helicopter with one arm and had to use the other to lift that heavy briefcase of nuclear launch-codes on board). HIT purposefully aims at engaging large groups of muscles at a time, spreading the exertion and the benefit.
Here’s how you get going:
- Find a training-partner. The work-outs are going to be so intense, you will be happy to have someone help you up the stairs to the dressing room afterwards.
- Find yourself 4-6 exercises which involve large muscle-groups (like bench-presses, squats, pull-ups, dead-lifts, dips or press-ups). There’s a ton of workout regimes online, which you could also use. As always when working with weights, technique is vital so you don’t injure yourself. Consider taking one or two classes with a trainer from your gym to make sure you’re executing the movements properly.
- Warm-up before you start your work-out, by e.g. rowing 500 meters like your life depended on it.
- For every exercise, do one very slow set with about half your training weight to warm-up the muscles needed. Nothing kills motivation like a pulled muscle.
- Do one very slow set of about 5-8 repetitions until your muscles are not working anymore. Have your partner help you to do another 1-2 repetitions.
- Finish every workout by stretching and relaxing.
Note: If you’re new to High Intensity Training, you should start slow and only get at the total-exhaustion training after a few weeks of moderate exercise. Once you’ve started on HIT, listen to your body carefully. If you’re sick, stay away from the gym. Muscles don’t disappear overnight, sometimes a few weeks of rest can even lead to some surprisingly accelerated progress afterwards.